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Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by HappyPappa, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. HappyPappa

    HappyPappa New Member

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    Sep 25, 2018
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    Hi everyone,
    I am retiring from the military next year and want to get into the sign business. I have about $55K to get started. I would like to get a CNC router and I am considering purchasing a digital printer as well. I'm not interested in installing signs just yet. My interest is carving wood doors, cabinets, letters and printing banners etc. It will just be my wife and me for now and I don't have any aspirations of hiring employees just yet. I would appreciate any recommendations on equipment and/or advise in general. Thanks in advance for taking the time to provide your experienced opinions.
     
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  2. The Big Squeegee

    The Big Squeegee Major Contributor

    :welcome: 2 :signs101smilie: from OK
     
  3. Joe300i

    Joe300i New Member

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    Hi, and welcome. Your post was pretty general. How big of signs are you looking to get into ? Do you have any marketing ideas ? How are you going to get customers ? Will you be renting a space, or using your home or garage ? All of these things are important. Good luck though, and I'll check back to see what you have to say.
     
  4. JTBoh

    JTBoh I sell signage and signage accessories.

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    Routers are badass, IF you know how to market your product. It will still take around 2-4 years for it to pay for itself, most likely.
    Market routing services to other sign shops within a 50 mile radius, cabinet makers, finish carpenters, etc.

    Sounds like you want a big toy to play with - most sign shops dont start with a router... they make signs first, then learn how to be a CNC craftsman. If thats what youre more comfortable with, then don't limit yourself to signage - find opportunities to pay for it.
     
  5. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    This and probably the 3 most important right now...

    Do you have any experience?
    How are your design skills?
    How are your software skills?
    (design and software skills are 2 different things)

    When people used to be mentored in the business, you sweep floors, instal signs, then get into the production and design.

    If you have no skills at all, right now get CorelDraw or Illustrator, google good sign design, and start developing an eye for it. Even post on here and show what you are doing. Don't ask muggle friends what they think (non-design/sign folk) because most don't know the principles of design, bad enough quite a few on here don't...

    In order to help, are you going to be doing flat cut out? or highly detailed 3d stuff? Or grown into elaborate signs/door and cabinets?
     
    • Like Like x 2
  6. HappyPappa

    HappyPappa New Member

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    Sep 25, 2018
    Texas
    Thanks for the response. I plan on marketing to local construction contractors, other sign shops and to individuals via social media, trade shows etc. I plan to purchase a home with a shop either on the property or in an area that will allow putting the shop on the property. I am also going to be doing an internship with a local sign shop before I retire to learn the ins and outs. I am looking at getting a 5x10 table so I can cut 10' material in one shot without having to reposition the material. The shop I am interning at is getting a CNC soon so I can get some hands-on time.
     
  7. HappyPappa

    HappyPappa New Member

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    Sep 25, 2018
    Texas
    I have a little experience hand carving signs with a router. However, as you all know that is extremely time intensive and there is not much money in it. I have also done some woodwork and woodturning. I am good with software...however, I have a lot to learn when it comes to the CNC software as well as sign design. I am going to be interning with a local sign company to learn as much as possible before I retire. They are getting a CNC router with the software I am looking at using. So, I will have several months of practice and training before I decide exactly what I am going to purchase. It will also be a good opportunity to learn what I really like doing. The sign industry is very versatile and I would rather start focusing on only a couple of things and see where it goes from there. I would like to use the CNC to its fullest potential (it is one hell of an investment)...so, all of the above; flat cut out, 3d and signs doors, cabinets.

    I am more intimidated by keeping books than I am the "work"!
     
  8. Rick

    Rick Certified Enneadecagon Designer

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    Valle Vista
  9. myront

    myront CorelDRAW is best

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    p.s. Thank you for your service and congratulations from an AF graphic design retiree.
     
  10. HappyPappa

    HappyPappa New Member

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    Sep 25, 2018
    Texas
  11. d fleming

    d fleming Very Active Member

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    None better than Dan the man.
     
  12. JR's

    JR's Very Active Member

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    swansea Ma 02777
    welcome to signs 101
     
  13. SignsSupport

    SignsSupport Support & Tech Administrator

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    Much appreciation for your service HappyPappaHappyPappa and congrats on what I'm sure is a well-earned retirement. Welcome to the Signs101 community as well as to the sign business too! Lots of helpful info posted in these forums. So best of luck finding all the advise & solutions that you're looking for. Best of luck! Cheers. :welcome:

    SignsSupport
     
  14. rossmosh

    rossmosh Active Member

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    Oct 9, 2014
    New Jersey
    I'll point out a few things you need to know about having a sign business where the router is the focal point.

    1. You need to know how to finish your work. Typically this means painting but can also mean staining. You'll find smart big retailers will often use standard white or black because it's by far the most cost effective colors, local businesses don't. They want what they want to some degree...

    2. You're going to likely be dealing with small time businesses. This means tight budgets, bad artwork, and poorly informed customers. People are not designing for dimensional work. So many designs and logos are horrible and made just for printing that in order to adapt them for dimensional work it's either very expensive or a complete bastardization.

    3. No matter how much you want the router to be the focus of your business, you're going to need complimentary processes. Some days you'll be able to cut straight 1/2" thick white letters out of PVC and send it out the door but a lot of the time you're going to have those letters that will need a digital print applied and the edges finished and then mounted on another substrate which may or may not be printed/painted/whatever.

    4. Marketing and sales are going to be as important as actual knowledge of both how to operate your machine and the materials and techniques to do the job. Considering your situation, what you want to be is more or less a job shop. But even being a job shop, you need to know your stuff. Yesterday I had a local shop ask for some ADA signs in a rush. He was going to use vinyl for the text which I had to let him know was not ADA complaint. You cannot rely 100% on source info. That's why I say marketing and sales are so important. If you're counting on local contractor jobs, you're going to hate life. They're going to walk in the door and expect you to be able to take some drawing they made on a piece of scrap paper and turn into into a CAD drawing and produce it for nothing. The best situation is dealing with pro's. They provide good files that are reasonably well spec'd out. That way you're just left to cut and deliver. You should be aware, the margins can be pretty tight doing that kind of work. $15k and a garage gets you into that market.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  15. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    Apr 22, 2007
    Normal, Illinois
    I'd put the $55k in an IRA and start your business by outsourcing all production and installation. Your costs will be lower than your competition, so you should be able to offer better pricing for your clients.

    Once you are doing a couple $million a year, you might be able to consider investments in production equipment. I've said this before: you will need a whole heck of a lot more money than $55k to set up a profitable production sign shop.

    On the other hand, if you just want to buy a router and put it out in the garage, it might be viable. You may be able to find a niche market as part of a production chain. Sounds like a nightmare to me (cost, noise, storage, dust control, hours on the computer, really low margins, etc.).

    If you are looking for a hobby, try hand-carved signs that can be finished with a brush. Way more fun, and can be done with hand tools.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. KSTrooper

    KSTrooper Wrapper, designer, illustrator

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    Feb 23, 2017
    Wichita, KS
    Welcome!

    If you're looking at getting started with CNC, I would recommend checking out your local makerspace, as they likely have one you could play with. If you're looking to get a machine that will cut up to 10 feet of material, you're going to burn through that 55k pretty fast, and if you get into things like vacuum tables, VFDs, and multi-tool capability the price really goes up. There are plenty of places that can do the cutting for you if you send them good files. Get a handle on software first, and you can always buy the equipment later.
     
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